London - England's Nathan Hughes has insisted he will have
no divided loyalties should the backrow make his first Test start against Fiji,
the land of his birth, at Twickenham on Saturday.
Hughes is the latest in a long line of players from the
Pacific Islands to have left their home nation in search of more lucrative
rugby opportunities elsewhere.
Qualified for England on a controversial three-year
residency rule which many, including World Rugby chairperson and Argentina
great Agustin Pichot, believe is too short, Hughes summed up his situation with
"I play rugby to support my family and put shelter over
their heads," said Hughes, who made his Test debut off the bench in
England's 37-21 win over South Africa at Twickenham last week.
"That is the decision I made. It is how Fijians
survive. It is their bread and butter.
"I would love for them to have more resources, but that
is the way it is. They just have to live on whatever they have got. I don't
know what they do with their money. I just focus on my family.
"The response (to my first cap) has been positive, all
happy and proud of the decision I have made. And, no, I won't be singing both
anthems. I will only be singing 'God Save the Queen'," added Hughes, who
was educated at Kelston Boys High School, where the All Blacks' 2011 World
Cup-winning coach Graham Henry was once the headmaster, after teachers at the
Auckland school spotted his sporting talent.
Few blame the 25-year-old for trying to make the most
financially out of a short career - he is set to receive a match fee of $27 370
compared to the $75 per diem expenses of a Fiji player on Saturday.
Nevertheless, there have long been concerns that the 'talent
drain' of players from poorer southern hemisphere sides to already
well-resourced European countries is damaging efforts to increase the global
competitiveness of international rugby union.
Fiji won the inaugural Olympic Sevens gold medal at this
year's Rio Games but the likes of Hughes, Australia's Tevita Kuridrani and
Henry Speight, and New Zealand's Waisake Naholo have opted to play Test rugby
But help could be at hand if an elite club Super Rugby
franchise was established in Fiji. There are plans to launch such a team,
possibly as soon as 2018, potentially allowing players the chance to pursue
professional careers at home and be exposed to a very high standard of rugby in
Fiji coach John McKee said Fiji could follow the example of
Argentina, whose exposure to Super Rugby has helped cement their place as a
leading rugby nation.
"It costs a lot of money to run a Super Rugby franchise
and the economies in the Pacific are small economies, but it could become a
reality in the next five to six years," McKee said.
"From a national coaching perspective, to have our
players playing in Super Rugby would be hugely beneficial for the national team
because the windows fit in with the Test match windows.
"We would have access to a fair number of our squad at
home over the whole 12 months. We would still select players from Europe, but
the core of our team would be at home.
"With the talented athletes we have, if we had a Super
Rugby team, we would be right up there.
"If you look at Argentina, they have improved since
joining Super Rugby...You can see how Argentina's style has changed - they are
a much more dangerous team now and had a very successful World Cup, playing
very un-Argentinean style rugby.
"That has come from playing Super Rugby."